Another Bold iPad Prediction
Update 2012/03/09: Darn, I guessed wrong. Oh well, a 50% hit rate for a bool is pretty good, right?
After I was declared a "semiconductor industry veteran" based on my previous article predicting when the iPad will get a retina display, I suppose I have to try my luck again.
Today there was a press release from Apple that essentially announces a new iPad, but we don't yet know what its killer feature will be. Retina display, you think?
I don't think so. A key part of my analysis last time was that right up to the release of the iPhone 4, there had been a series of Android phones with ever-increasing pixel density around the iPhone's screen size. The iPhone 4's screen density was not at all revolutionary: it exactly coincided with the density trends based on Moore's Law. Apple was not ahead of technology; they were right on time. Or, the day before the iPhone 4 was released, they were actually a year or two late, because all the other phones had better screens. They were waiting until they could do a 2x density increase.
Samsung just announced new Galaxy Note and Galaxy Tab tablets at 10.1 inches, but they're only 142 dpi or so, which is "normal res," not "retina." It's slightly higher res than an iPad, but not much. That's what state of the art looks like, and a "retina" density 10 inch display isn't reasonable yet.
Since the 2x resolution increase on the iPhone was so incredibly gobsmackingly successful, it's unlikely Apple will make an increase in pixels on the iPad unless it's 2x.
However, if you predict using Moore's Law since the date of the iPhone 4 release, it looks like you could perhaps double the 1024x768 iPad resolution to 2048x1536... you just couldn't do it yet on a 10 inch screen. Let's do the math: the iPhone 4 came out in June 2010, about 20 months ago, which gives us a Moore's Law improvement of 2**(20/18) = 2.16. The iPhone 4 screen is 960 pixels long, and 2.16 * 960 = 2073. Startlingly close to 2048. The only catch is it would be more like 6 or 7 inches, not 10.
I'm not sure Apple would be willing to go with a "smaller, lighter, thinner, more compact" iPad - the current one is maybe just the right size - but I don't know for sure. A 7 inch tablet would be a great book reader, I suppose. So I predict it's either that, or the screen resolution doesn't change.
It's no fun unless I say it out loud. Let the games begin!
(By the way, this is personal opinion, not that of my employer. I work on projects that are not smartphone or tablet or Android development, and I have no insider information.)
(And yes, this is the same prediction I made last time, because math doesn't change. I'm just reiterating it :))
(Also, this analysis omits the possibility of using a lower-density process than the iPhone 4 uses, thus producing the same pixels at a bigger size, maybe 10 inches again. But I don't think this is going to happen; you can see people pushing for bigger and bigger high-density phones, but I haven't heard about any high-density tablets yet. Apple has been strictly a follower here; they don't invent entirely new display fabrication technologies.)